Danball Senki Wars

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It’s been a while since the manga came out, but it’s finally started to be scanned. It’s off to a reasonable start. The art’s a little choppy, but the plot’s good and as the show was solid I’m expecting good things from the manga as well. I’ll have a review for the series up when I’ve finished it.

Overall 7/10

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Kuroko’s Basketball

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Shonen Jump has always been pretty solid with its action and sports lineup. Kuroko’s Basketball is no exception and after reading the first 4 volumes I can certainly see why it got a lot of attention back in the day. I’ll have a review for the series up once I’ve wrapped up the final volumes.

Overall 7/10

A Fistful of Dollars Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative.
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It’s time to look at an old Wild West film. I’ve never been a fan of the genre. It’s just not my thing as the scenery isn’t all that engaging and everyone always seems to be pretty unlikable here. Fortunately this one was actually pretty decent all things considered and I may go as far as to say that this is my favorite Wild West film. It’s just more enjoyable than the average one and there is quite a lot of strategy going on here which is always nice.

The film starts off with our nameless hero wandering into a corrupt town. There are two factions here which are always battling for control. They are the Baxters and the Rojos. The Baxters are technically the Sheriff group so you’d think they would be the heroes here but considering that they’re all bullies who like shooting everyone up then I guess that isn’t true. The hero decides to take both families down by pitting them against each other. In the process perhaps he will be able to save a couple who has been separated by the warring factions. (Not that they each joined a squad but that the Roja’s have split them up for their own amusement.

A good chunk of the film is about the main character lying to both sides and getting them into trouble. Naturally there is no reason to feel bad for any of the people that he is tricking because they are all bad hombres from the start. He grabs two dead Mexican cops and plants them in a grave yard which causes both groups to want to reach them in time. I can understand the Rojos wanting to silence them but I don’t really see how this would help the Baxters. They are hopelessly outmatched against the Rojos anyway. Why wouldn’t the Baxters go to the next village to grab some cops if they really needed backup? I feel like that would have helped out a little unless they were worried about being undermanned at the village for any amount of time.

One scene near the end of the film is a pretty big stretch though. The hero frames the Baxters again so the final 4 Rojos decide to go to their base and murder them all. The Baxters are supposed to be decent fighters in their own right…right? Well, they manage to somehow lose a 20+ vs 4 battle which is just shameful. They keep running out of the house without their guns or at the very least without any kind of aiming skills. At most you can see the first few members falling for this but we’re talking dozens here and the scene lasts for a very long time. They just keep running out of the house and getting shot. At least take one or two guys down before you die. Going out like that is just embarrassing. It would be tragic if the Baxters weren’t such bad characters.

Naturally there is no reason to like the Rojos either. The main villain is pretty much your stereotypical gang leader who is only concerned with getting money and messing everyone up. At least he is able to plan better than the Baxters though. Still, the only 3 good characters here are the main character and his two pals. The more minor of the two is the coffin maker. He doesn’t do a whole lot but ends up playing a pivotal role towards the end of the film. Then you’ve got the bar owner who helps the hero out a lot. Naturally this ends up being a pretty painful experience for him which is always the case when you ally yourself with the main character. He stays strong throughout though and is also a pretty good shot with his gun.

Finally there’s the main character although I think I’ve already mentioned that he’s pretty solid. This guy knows how to plan and he’s a very quick shot. He manages to take down multiple opponents quite a few times. Without his gun he can still put up a fight although at that point trying to fight a 1 v 4 is basically impossible. He also gets put through the wringer here as the scene where he is beaten by the group is quite intense and certainly lasts for a long while. The film can get pretty gruesome although that’s to be expected. It’s another Wild West thing. Still, it could have been worse.

Aside from the violence the only other aspect of the film that can hurt it is essentially how the villains are winning for 99% of the film and by the time they are defeated there isn’t much left to save. It always takes a bit of the triumph out of the victory because the villains got away with so much before finally being taken down. That’s just how it is sometimes I suppose, but it’s also fun to see the hero swoop in and save the day before all of the damage has been done.

Overall, A Fistful of Dollars is a Wild West film that manages to tick off the usual boxes without making too many mistakes. The film doesn’t particularly drag on and having a good lead is certainly important. It can be annoying to see the entire town corrupt as it is said early on that basically everyone else has already been murdered. Without the main character around things would have definitely gotten a lot worse. By the time the police actually get ready to show up as the film is ending you know that they were just way too late for it to even matter. I’d recommend checking this film out. You’ll see how to properly do a quick draw.

Overall 6/10

Monster Hunter: Flash Hunter Review

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It’s time to look at a Monster Hunter manga. This one made it all the way to 10 volumes and has some cool cover arts so how does it rank? Well, it’s a pretty good premise and I wouldn’t fault its pacing, but the manga does fall short in some areas. Mainly the art and the characters are what brings it down. Salvaging the manga though is the amount of fights we have on deck and the fact that it’s still interesting. It pales in comparison to many other titles but I wouldn’t call it bad either. It just takes a while to get going and by then it’s basically over.

The series starts with Raiga as a kid. He looked up to his local Monster Hunter (A guy who hunts monsters) but unfortunately this guy got scarred after a tough quest and changed into a violent person. He is now bent on getting revenge and ditched Raiga’s village. The hero and some townspeople survived, but Raiga swore that he would find this hunter one day and get payback. He decides to be a hunter and a few years later he has finally attained his goal. The problem is that his bark is bigger than his actual skill. He teams up with Keres, an arrogant archer who panics quite often and Torche, a navigator who isn’t particularly skilled. Can these three heroes become legendary Flash Hunters?

Lets address the elephant in the room. That is to say, the terrible character known as Raiga. It’s obvious what the series is going for from the start. Raiga’s the hot headed main character who jumps into action and thinks about the consequences later. That’s fine, I’d actually consider that to be a positive trait most of the time. A lot of my favorite characters are like that as with Vegeta and Ichigo. The problem is that Raiga never improves enough where he can afford to act this way. All he ends up doing is putting everyone in harm’s way. Time after time he rushes at an enemy and nearly gets the group destroyed. It always works out one way or the other, but always because someone saves him and not because he ends up beating the monster. Raiga doesn’t care about teamwork and will always choose to pursue the monster.

You’d expect some kind of character arc for him somewhere down the line but it never, ever comes up. Even in literally the last volume he makes the same mistake. A monster has been forced back into the ocean and the town is calling in a bunch of hunters. Once there are enough of them then the team will go in to finish the monster. The problem is that Raiga wants to prove that he has surpassed Bexel (The rogue hunter who betrayed his village) and goes in alone. Naturally he gets beat up as always and Bexel is forced to save him. Then the rest of the team arrives and Raiga is saved, but our young hero ends up taking most of the credit. What he did was completely unnecessary. He does something like this in every volume and you can see why Keres kept ditching him. Raiga is a man who puts his own adrenaline needs above the lives of his teammates. Such a character won’t go far.

Raiga was just annoying the entire time and I’m still shocked by how he never got better. Unfortunately his teammate Torche is almost as bad. Her personality quirk is that she’s pretty clutsy and isn’t good at anything besides being a scout. She can pick out monster weak points, but this almost never comes in handy. She defends Raiga a lot which isn’t good either. The worst part is that she never really becomes a fighter. I get that not all team members need to know how to fight, but at least getting better armor and superior weapons would help her case a lot. She just ends up being more of a non character than anything.

Finally we have Keres. He’s a mixed bag because on one hand his constant need to run away is annoying. He gets nervous a lot to the point where he even retires for a while and is forced back into the hunt. On the other hand, he is often right when Raiga is involved. Why go to hunt a monster that isn’t bothering anyone when they can wait for reinforcements? He isn’t constantly addicted to fighting the way Raiga is. Still, he can be annoying in general so since all 3 main characters are annoying you can see why the characters is an angle which holds the manga back.

I also think the art may have something to do with this. The artist isn’t great at drawing facial expressions so everyone tends to have the same grins, frowns, etc. They all look the same after a while. Different character designs, but the same postures and expressions. Then the artist gets completely lost with regard to the fight scenes. You really can’t tell what is happening half of the time because it is too chaotic. Everyone is using a huge attack and the same goes for the monster so all of the action lines intersect to the point where it’s too muddled to make anything out. The art never gets better unfortunately and this would certainly be one of the weakest art that I have seen for a series.

Then we’ve got the main rival character Bexel. You could also call him an antagonist I suppose, but Raiga definitely exaggerates when talking about him. If you think about it, Bexel never actually hurt everyone. He decided to distance himself from everyone, that’s certainly true. At the same time I think it’s a little iffy for Raiga to basically act like he’s a monster. Bexel single handily saves many villages because of how crazy strong he has gotten. He may not be a hero, but he certainly is the best hunter in the series so just let him do his thing. Even by the end of the series nobody is even close to being as strong as he is. That’s pretty impressive.

There are also a few supporting characters, but given the series we are talking about none of them are all that memorable. You have another pair of hunters who do their best to support the main 3, but they aren’t all that powerful. One of them has his big hero moment which is basically Raiga’s fault so when he doesn’t return from his fatal battle we have the lead to thank. Then there is another heroine who shows up from time to time. She’s way better than Torche, but never feels too important. Honestly, nobody feels that important aside from the main 3 and you could basically just call them a distraction if anything.

I will give the manga a lot of credit for how it handles the monsters. This could have easily gone the animal violence route, but the manga is very classy with how it treats the battles. The monsters don’t get all that injured or when they die it isn’t super graphic. So while I do think the title failed in a lot of ways, this was a very important element and it handled this part very well. After all, better a 6/10 then getting the rest right and still dropping to a 4/10 with all of the creatures getting wrecked right?

I still think Bexel didn’t really get a fair shake, but I’ve already spoken a lot about the characters to lets start to wrap this up. Why is this manga still good when everything before this in the review was pretty negative? Well, as I mentioned before the premise of the manga is still good. I like a good adventure title as much as the next guy and the Monster Hunter world has always been pretty interesting. I liked the armors that the characters wore and while the fight scenes could be hard to read at least they were present. They were also rather long the whole time so you can’t say that the manga forgot that part. It does a good job of making the danger feel pretty real to the heroes.

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Overall, Monster Hunter: Flash Hunter could and should have been a lot better than it was. The characters should have been more interesting and likable. I can also dig the concept of the main 3 constantly bickering and all that, but even that isn’t handled well. We also get some random time skips, but the status quo didn’t change much so they ultimately feel pointless. You go from having the whole cast feeling outmatched against one monster to suddenly nothing can stop them in the ending. I’m fine with the main characters being the best since that’s inevitable, but you’re telling me that the whole region is basically out of hunters so without the main 3 they are doomed? How did they all live for so long then? Read this manga if you want a good action/fantasy title but prepare to get a little irritated.

Overall 6/10

Super Dragon Ball Heroes Dark Demon Realm Review

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It’s time to look at a pretty different manga. This one is a short spinoff manga about the Super Dragon Ball Heroes adventures. This part of the franchise has always been cool because it pairs together fighters from various Dragon Ball eras including Super, GT, and the movies. It’s pretty cool but naturally with so many characters running around the power levels can get a bit iffy. Typically GT fans will be very pleased here though because Super Saiyan 4 gets a lot of respect. It’s a blast for sure and you’ll wish this series could have kept going.

The plot involves a group of Demons who have decided to change the past. They are augmenting past DBZ villains to untold heights with the Dark Dragon Balls and then aim to collect all 7 to resurrect their king. (The king is still alive, but heavily weakened at the moment) The Time Patrol can’t let that stand so the Kai of Time summons Future Trunks to help out. He’s a little outgunned on his own though so she also brings in Xeno Goku who is basically end of GT Goku. The two of them may need more backup though as the villains here may be even stronger than Omega Shenron. Fight hard Z Fighters!

The manga never stops to let you catch a breath so you feel like one of the heroes. They have to adapt on the fly because you never know who is going to pop up next. From Super Saiyan 3 Bardock to Super Saiyan Black King Vegeta, there are a bunch of powerful fighters here. Both Vegito and Gogeta make an appearance along with a bunch of other fusions like Gohan and Trunks and classic Gotenks. The pacing is quite excellent and the fights are all a blast. The artwork is great as you’d expect and feels like a classic DBZ story. I won’t go as far as to say it looks as good as DBZ, but it still looks great in its own right.

If the manga has any problems it is the fact that there is so much happening that no individual fight lasts very long. As soon as one matchup is just getting good then the manga has to switch to another one. There’s also the power levels issue I mentioned earlier where some characters look a little stronger or weaker than they ought to. The manga does its best to get around that by being as vague with the power ups as possible, but it’s still tricky. Basically when a character gets infected with the dark Dragon Balls they get a huge boost. So huge that a character like Kid Buu can suddenly match up with the current Gogeta. Then you’ve got the demons who are all absurdly powerful.

So…these demons in their natural forms are able to keep up with Super Gogeta? I mean, it’s not really a bad thing as the more powerful villains the better, but it is just a little hard to believe. The king of evil also gets a lot of hype as it is hinted that he would be the strongest being in the cosmos. Without even being powered up he was looking pretty impressive. It makes for an excellent climax though as we see all of the Z Fighters engaging in multiple battles as they frantically try to reach him. A shame that we couldn’t see that fight, but maybe in a sequel.

That’s right, the manga ends on a big cliffhanger. It looks like the villains from Xenoverse 2 might be showing up. Of course, it’s going to have to wait since the manga then transitioned into the Prison Planet arc and it’s unknown if it will go back to this one afterwards or if you’ll just need to play the arcade game. Either way I hope they keep up these Dragon Ball Heroes stories since there is just so much that can be done with them. I’d also like to see all of these arcs animated since that would just be a blast.

I mean…we even get Super Saiyan 4 Broly to show up! That was hype even if his appearance was rather small. I’m not sure about him only being on par with SSJ4 Goku and that demon guy. In theory Broly should be the strongest one in this place. I do like the manga’s excuse for Goku not going SSJ4 from the start being that it is simply too powerful and that it even corrupts time itself. According to the manga, SSJ4 Goku is even stronger than Vegito which is really something. Makes you wonder what a SSJ4 Vegito would be like. In theory that would be absolutely crazy. That’s also why this manga is so good, it’s absolutely bonkers.

I don’t know the demons very well as I never played Xenoverse, but from what I can see here they seem like fun villains. They all have a lot of personality and good designs. The kid with the scythe is cool as I can’t think of any other Dragon Ball character who uses that weapon to fight. It’s a little unorthodox but it definitely still gets the job done. As for the Kai of Time, the fact that she can fight a little is certainly cool. She may not be a powerhouse or anything, but her barrier spells are very handy.
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Overall, This is an amazing manga. I can’t stress enough how hype it is. It’s very short and basically nonstop fights so there isn’t a lot to say, but it’s something that DBZ fans will really be able to appreciate. It’s only around 2 volumes long so it won’t take very long to read but has high replay value. It would work as a sequel to DB Super if they don’t announce anything in the near future I’ll have a review for the Prison Planet manga out when it finishes, but I suppose that could still be a little while away. Also, I have to admit that it can’t quite match how cool this one is, but it’s still excellent as well.

Overall 9/10

Fairy Tail City Hero

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Looks like Fairy Tail’s got another spinoff going! This one is pretty early on, but it already has some warning bells. The series seems like it’s going to try and add in the typical Fairy Tail elements, but hopefully it can end up being a good series. It’s got potential, it’s just got to live up to it.

Overall 4/10

Cry of the Werewolf Review

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It’s time to look at a really old Werewolf film. This one changes things up a bit from the usual formula, but I can’t say that it ever gets to the point where you start to think of it as an amazing title. It’s just hard for Werewolves to be particularly impressive. With the main character being rather sketchy as well things got tough for this flick, but I will say that it still did manage to be better than expected. After all, we have a good actor for the Werewolf and he seemed to be having a good time here so that was good.

The film has an intriguing lore. Essentially there is a tribe of Werewolves. Nobody knows about them and they want to keep it that way. Unfortunately word starts to get out and the bodies begin to pile up. Our main character may not be the brightest one out there, but he starts to figure out that something is wrong. The Werewolves decide to silence him as a result. That will be the only way that they can ensure nobody visits them. Of course, it’ll be tough since the main character’s best fiancee is also related to the tribe which is a security risk. How can the leader of the tribe hope to stop this main character?

Well, the main character is pretty bad so that part isn’t really much of a challenge. It’s hard to explain just how bad this guy is, but there’s one scene in particular that makes it easy. So, he’s pretty sure that this group is the one who murdered his father. (side note, the father didn’t look very good the whole time either. A mysterious idol appears in his house one day and he doesn’t question it. It’s a doll that is meant to be interpreted as a threat but the doctor/professor doesn’t take it seriously. He probably should have) He heads to the morgue to search for clues and that’s when the leader appears to try and talk him over. She uses her charm to get him to her apartment where he is immediately defeated and distracted long enough for her to put an actual charm on him. He eventually gets over it, but considering that he is prepping for a wedding you would think that the guy would be a little more prepared right? Well, that was apparently not good enough for him and he was so close to wrecking his chances with the fiancee.

Then the heroine isn’t great either. She may have the Dracula accent, but she doesn’t actually use it to try and fight against the villains. On the contrary, instead she is content to stay on the sidelines and faints when the leader even talks to her. She simply can’t fight back at all and it’s always annoying to see that happen to the heroes. Why should she be any weaker than the leader? Those mental energy bolts shouldn’t affect her quite so strongly. She spends enough time fainting and almost murdering the main character where it’s just hard to take her seriously.

If you want a good character then look no further than the chief of police. That guy may have had the wrong man for most of the film, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. This guy was actually taking his job seriously and can you really fault him for doubting that it was some kind of supernatural culprit? It technically makes sense that this would not be the case. He also did come around by the end and didn’t deny the evidence right in front of him so that was good. He may have been rather late to the game, but better late than never right?

Overall, The Cry of the Werewolf isn’t the best film out there, but it was rather entertaining. I liked the Cops here and while the main duo were pretty bad, they could also be unintentionally funny. I do think that the film was a little all over the place though. The whole tribe of Werewolves thing was a little odd. Why didn’t the followers try to help out as well? Whether they worshiped the leader as a werewolf or feared her, they should have stepped in. The heroes wouldn’t have stood a chance since they were so outnumbered and the tribe would get off scot free since nobody would believe that they were Werewolves. This film will leave you with some questions for sure. Whether they are big enough for it to matter to you is another story. At the end of the day, I guess the film at least did a reasonable job of trying its best to find a different way of telling the classic Werewolf story.

Overall 5/10

Phi Brain: Puzzle of God Review

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It’s time to look at a puzzle anime which is pretty unique. There are a few puzzle franchises out there, but if we’re strictly looking at shows the only one that I can think of is Layton and I haven’t seen that one yet. A puzzle is different from a mystery after all as you’re trying to find the way to complete it, not so much finding out who made it. The season’s definitely a lot of fun and basically handled everything flawlessly. It’s a show that you can certainly recommend to anyone and it has no weak points.

The show starts with Kaito Daimon (Get used to his full name as all of the characters like using it) beating the puzzle club’s best puzzles once again. Try as they might they can never defeat him and that’s because Kaito is a genius. His catch phrase is “There ain’t no puzzle I can’t solve” which is a triple negative so it basically turns into “I can solve all puzzles!” It’s definitely one of the best catchphrases I’ve heard in a while although “I’m not done yet!” still wins at the moment. His best friend Nonoha isn’t any good at puzzles but they still get along pretty well with how different they are. Kaito’s life gets a little more complicated though when an evil organization known as the POG shows up. They have begun setting up puzzles which are designed to take the life of those who challenge them.

This goes against what Kaito believes puzzles should be like. He plays them for fun after all. Now he is obligated to try out all of these puzzles so he can solve them before anyone gets hurt. He registers with the school as a genius with an official title so he can go after the POG and is also chosen by the Armlet of Orpheus which grants him super human intelligence for a time, but also completely exhausts him. He won’t be alone though as 3 other geniuses from the school, Gammon, Ana, and Cubik are also chosen. Together they have to stop the POG, but are these other guys just holding Kaito back? If so…how can he get them to back off?

A great deal of the season is shrouded in mystery as we only learn more about the POG in small steps. At first all you really know is that Kaito has to stop them. Gradually we see inside of the POG. Their motives, how the organization works, etc. Especially towards the end as we get a full flashback episode and you get all of the context. I’d say that the show does a good job of answering all of its questions. I still have to question how practical the POG is. Apparently they used to be more of a heroic organization but gradually they became more ruthless and were just hiring a bunch of murderers. However, from the start they were going around murdering people so it’s safe to say that this was all a front. If anything the disturbing element of the POG is how like most other cults they get a lot of people who seem like ordinary citizens to quickly be eager to destroy their fellow man. It’s definitely not what you would expect from a teacher at the local school for example. The POG also gets away with quite a lot to be honest, but I suppose one day the cops will learn of them and they’ll all do some time.

Back on target, as I mentioned the puzzles are one of the big selling points of the show. They certainly deliver. All of the puzzles in the show are properly explained. They are nice and complex without being hard to understand. For example, when you see the puzzle you will quickly know what to do even if you aren’t sure how to find the actual answer. The puzzles are just written really well. My favorite one is probably the Lightsaber duel. There’s a lot of strategy there while also being more of a physical test of skill since you also need to be able to move fast enough to pull off most of the moves. The same can be said for some of the other puzzles like the battle atop the construction building. If you can’t run from pillar to pillar fast enough then it’s really all over.

The animation is quite sharp. I like the effects that are used for the armlet and the glowing eyes that Kaito and Rook have. The energy effects are just very vibrant and same with all of the backgrounds. The show always looks sharp and you can tell that a good amount of effort was put into it. I also greatly enjoyed the soundtrack. It’s an interesting Brazilian/Portuguese type soundtrack with a lot of fast paced tunes that work well for the puzzles. The theme song is also really good which is definitely fortunate since the whole season just has one. iI still think that a theme song should change every 13 episodes, but I suppose that can get expensive. It’s definitely a memorable bundle of songs so that is reason enough to give this one a look.

Now lets look at the main cast. Kaito is our main character and he’s a good lead. He is very confident throughout the series and never even considers the fact that he might not win. He knows that he is a top notch solver and I do tend to enjoy characters like that quite a bit. He does have a few times where his confidence is shaken thanks to stuff that happened in his childhood which the villains love to use against him. Still, it never keeps him down for long and Kaito always bounces back. He has to work extra hard most of the time so he wins the puzzle while still saving his opponent. It’s definitely not an easy road, but it’s one that he can handle. The best character in the show is certainly him or Gammon.

Gammon is the rival here. He’s another very confident character who is convinced that he is the best. Initially he is a solver like Kaito but eventually he remembers that he used to be a Giver. (Givers create puzzles while solvers…..solve them) This leads to a rather iffy decision where Gammon joins the POG for a while. Now this is where it’s pretty complicated. See, the show doesn’t play it off as too serious a thing. He betrays the heroes and works for a bunch of murderers, but he never personally destroys anyone. The heroes also seem to think that he knew they would survive each time which is why he had no qualms about murdering Kaito. Still, it’s taken quite far so even if the heroes can forgive him I’m not sure if I can. At the very least he did drop from being my favorite character to going under Kaito. I suppose I’ll put him in 2nd for now, but it will be interesting to see where his character arc goes from here. His tale is tragic at times admittedly as he is quite good, but always gets overshadowed by Kaito. That’s why it was interesting to see him as an antagonist since he busts into the villain base and starts taking everyone down. The fact that he was able to beat everyone aside from the boss Rook (Who he never got to fight) is quite telling.

Nonoha is the main heroine and she’s a fun character to have around. She can actually fight unlike most of the cast which is certainly handy in case any of the villains decide to take matters into their own hands. I also like how she was helpful right from the start like in the very first episode where she helps Kaito during the maze. Yeah, she almost fell to her doom, but it was a good effort. She’s always around to cheer Kaito and the gang up. Even after all of Kaito’s friends start running scared she manages to stick with him the whole time. Definitely a quality character and even if she can’t solve puzzles hopefully she continues to get a big role in the next adventures.
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Cubik is one of Kaito’s less impressive friends. He tries to stop Kaito from solving puzzles several times. The worst instance of this was when he put something on Kaito that wouldn’t let him focus on puzzles and would give him shots of pain if he tried. It’s always tragic to see since those puzzles would have been easy for Kaito otherwise. Cubik also deserts Kaito when the lead needed him most. He has his reasons and at least he had one unlike the next character, but he could have handled the situation much better than he did. It was still rather tough for him to recover from what happened in the end. Cubik also isn’t one of the better solvers to be honest.

Then there is Ana who is the worse of the friends. For starters, when he deserts Kaito there is no good reason. He just couldn’t take the stress and thought that Kaito was going to die so he wanted no part of it. Even by the end of the series all he got to do was show Kaito a painting. Sure, that was Ana’s big moment, but it wasn’t nearly as emotional or impactful at the others. Ana just could have done a lot better and never taking anything seriously doesn’t help his case either. Sometimes you gotta take things seriously or overconfidence will be your downfall.

Jikukawa is the mysterious student counsel president who works directly for Principal Baron. He acts like a troll most of the time and is just around to give the heroes their orders. He keeps a lot of secrets from them, but at the end of the day he does try to help them out at times. He just has the dangerous attitude of letting them go to the death puzzles and deciding that if they can’t solve them then it was simply their time. He starts taking more initiative as the series goes on and gradually becomes a better character as a result. You should only listen to corrupt orders for so long after all. Then we have the Principal who never really became a good character.

Baron is one of the big members of the POG and he tries to get the heroes to solve the puzzles. The problem is that his end goal is to defy the POG but he does a really bad job of it. He’s in over his head and doesn’t even know what is happening half the time. He may as well be a villain since he does whatever they say without question. Don’t let his peaceful words fool you, the Baron is not someone that I would trust and the heroes should probably be less happy to see him each time. Then we have Jin who used to hang out with Kaito and Rook before vanishing. The way his plot goes may be a bit unsatisfying, but it was an original twist. Lets just say that the big showdown really didn’t go his way despite the guy’s confidence. Maybe he would have done a little better if he had kept the armlet.

Time to look at the villains. The leader/main villain of the series is Rook. He was Kaito’s friend back in the day before vanishing. Now he is focused on destroying Kaito because he wishes they could have been friends without anyone else. Of course, I don’t trust Rook much though and I think he would have made them go through the Puzzle of God anyway. I haven’t really talked about that part much, but basically the ultimate goal of the POG is to develop a talent strong enough to challenge the Puzzle of God. Here’s where it gets a bit confusing, you need 2 solvers to challenge the puzzle at the same time since it’s a battle puzzle. The loser dies while the winner receives the Book of God which can be used to destroy the world..somehow. I don’t think the show even knows how it would work, but it’s basically just an incentive to get everyone fighting. The actual book is never all that important. Fortunately since the two solvers in the past already solved it, the book is already out in the open. Back to Rook, he’s not the greatest villain. He seems pretty intense by the end with how he wants to be with Kaito, but still chooses to act as his enemy the whole time. He let his jealousy turn him mad which wrecks all of his composure. He has a cool design, but he’s probably one of the weaker villains personality-wise.

Then we have Bishop who is Rook’s right hand man. This guy was pretty cool and it’s too bad we couldn’t have seen him more. The guy’s a genius in his own right even if he is a considerable step below Rook. He always keeps his cool and helps the villains from behind the scenes. He believes in winning fair and square so he doesn’t use any cheap tactics. That definitely makes him an honorable fighter in my book. It’s certainly possible that he may return, but I just get the feeling that he probably won’t do much. Meanwhile, one of the other big villains is Elena. She’s a villain by night and an entertainer by day, but both roles involve puzzles. Her heart is never really in it compared to the others, but she still stays on the side of the POG. She may as well since she’s a celebrity and doesn’t have to fear them as much as the others. Elena is a fun character and pretty resourceful. The heroes definitely owe her for the insider information she gave them. I could definitely see her showing up again at some point. She got a lot of development so it’s time for her to challenge a puzzle as a hero.

That’s basically it for the relevant cast. I’ve also covered pretty much everything about the series so it’s almost time for the wrap up. It goes without saying but the writing is also pretty solid. I think you’ll be kept engaged from start to finish. The show has a lot of replay value given how you can also choose to pause the puzzle from the start and solve it yourself. Some of them can be a bit of a stretch to solve without clues, but others are laid out from the start with a solution. You’ll just need a paper and pen handy to see if you can crack it. It’ll definitely take you longer than the characters from the show though.
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Overall, Phi Brain is definitely a blast. It’s a series that I highly recommend. The puzzles are really well thought out and the cast of characters are all pretty interesting as well. I think the random episodes of the heroes beating puzzles of fools and POG traps may have beaten some of the more plot based episodes of the second half, but both have their strengths. You can be satisfied with knowing that season 1 is a complete package. It’s a story that has a beginning and an ending. There isn’t even a real cliffhanger for season 2 as long as you don’t watch the preview. I’m certainly glad that there are more adventures to be had with the main cast though. They can easily hold their own plots. Even without a main villain group the puzzles would be good enough, but we do actually have a fresh villain group coming up which will be cool. They have a lot of potential.

Overall 8/10

Venom Review

Venom
When Venom was first announced there was a lot of panic in the streets since there are so many good arcs to choose from and so little time. Naturally it made sense to choose one where Venom is a little more on the heroic side to build him up as the main character of this universe (Or that’s what they should do at least) so then the film builds its origin story around that. It was actually quite a bit better than I expected after hearing the negative buzz. It’s a good film that can hold its own and I’m definitely ready for that sequel.

The film starts with Venom crash landing on Earth along with 3-4 other symbiotes. (The film opted to switch the pronunciation back to normal) they had been captured by the government except for one who manages to escape. This corrupt company wants to find a way to merge humans and aliens so they can live in space and are murdering a bunch of people off the streets in order to do this. Eddie once tried stopping this company but it cost him everything. Well, a doctor has convinced him to give it a second shot and with a symbiotic of his own, Eddie may just have a chance. He’s been beaten by corporate, humiliated, treated like a drunk has been. Eddie decides that it’s time he stood up for himself.

A lot of this film will probably depend on how much you like Eddie Brock himself. The guy is definitely not like your average hero. He’s usually a little on the drunk side and is always down on his luck. He means well but at the same time doesn’t think things through. On one hand you see several examples of him being a good person like when he gave a homeless lady some money or how he tends to get along with everyone like the door man and the owner of a convenience store. Eddie’s just a very easy going guy even if he can be a little slow to adapt to what’s going on. I don’t think his character personality was executed nearly as well as it could or should have been though. I think he could have been very likable if handled right but from what we got he can be rather annoying.

The Venom symbiote is a lot of fun though. His personality reminds me of Blue Beetle’s scarab. At first he is pretty ruthless and acts like a villain but gets rehabilitated rather convincingly. Even from the start he is pretty handy to Eddie and as he mentions, Venom is a reasonable guy. He even lets Eddie square away his personal issues before they head out on their final mission. The symbiote is always quick on his feet and I’d say he is also quite patient considering how much Eddie is complaining throughout all of this. Venom’s easily the best character here although I have a hard time believing that he wasn’t cool back on his world. I like to think he is just trying to be sympathetic to Eddie which shows once again that he is a pretty nice guy. The plot of a character being possessed by another entity or being forced to share a body can usually go on 3 ways. The spirit is evil and crushes the hero, the spirit is heroic and they team up, or the spirit is rather ruthless but will help the hero for mutual survival and down the road they become friends. The final version is typically the best route, especially when the other entity never fully turns good and is always a bit of a loose cannon. That’s why I’m glad the film went this route.

I do have to say that the writing can be rather weak though. The script isn’t great which makes the characters a little harder to like than they would be otherwise. The language definitely could have been toned down quite a bit. There is also the matter of the romance being quite weak here. The main heroine’s instant rebound was super suspect as she clearly couldn’t have cared for Eddie much if she’s already moved on so completely. There was a time skip of a few months which is supposed to make this feel more organic…but it doesn’t really work. Throw in the fact that some sketchy stuff happens later on and I don’t think her character arc is going in a good direction. Plus, Dan seemed like a reasonable character but you get the feeling that he is doomed from the start. At least he tried helping Eddie. Two other supporting characters who were fun were the Deli owner and the homeless lady by the store. They seemed to be pretty nice characters who were doing their best to get by. Eddie being nice to them is part of the reason why he’s a likable character in the first place. The rapport with those characters is on point and hopefully the Deli owner gets to appear in the sequel. Maybe she can give him some more advice.

As for the scientist lady who tries to enlist Eddie’s help….I can’t say that I was really a fan of hers. She just seems a little wishy washy and far too late about suddenly feeling bad about her work. The company she works for has already murdered a ton of people. She has a quick line about how it was worth it since they were curing cancer, but not anymore since they’re trying for space travel. While the latter does seem to be less important than the former, the ends don’t justify the means either way. Then when she does make her move she isn’t particularly smart. She should have left the complex the instant things went sideways. Did she forget that security cameras are a thing? As soon as the villain found out that someone had broken in she should have left. She just wasn’t nearly as compelling as the other characters.

Then you have the corporate big shot who is trying to harness the power of the symbiotes for his own gain. The guy is heralded as a genius, but doesn’t seem all that smart from what we see. It just looks like he has a lot of money and gets everyone else to do the inventing for him. I mean, that happens a lot in real life as well as the small workers do all the work for the big shots who take the credit, but it needed to be said. Still, he’s a pretty fun main villain. He’s very full of himself and definitely does take down a lot of characters during the course of the movie. He definitely gets outranked once Riot shows up though. Also, he wants to inhabit space since Earth was too overpopulated. I think he would have liked Thanos’ plans to snap half of all life away. Then things would be balanced….as all things should be. He would have joined Thanos’ ranks in a heartbeat….and then chickened out halfway so he would have been doomed.

Riot is definitely a fun character. He makes for a great villain and his deign is pretty hype. In general the designs for the symbiote creatures were pretty solid. Venom looks like his classic 90s self and of course Riot is basically just a grayer version of Venom. This makes for a pretty epic climax in the film where both characters really get to go at it. With the raw power that both characters have as well as their regeneration, it means that neither one will be going down very quickly. I suppose that it’s unlikely we will have Riot show up again in a sequel since the next film will likely feature the fan favorite Carnage as the villain. We’ll see if that guy can really match up to Riot though.

Naturally this film does have an after credits scene so you may want to stick around for that. It’s a fairly low key scene involving a character who certainly doesn’t seem to be very interesting, but you could argue that this side of him doesn’t actually matter. The real deal will show up soon. It’s definitely a good stinger for the next film though. It does its job of cluing you in as to what will happen next time as opposed to just going for a quick gag. There is another scene at the end, but that one’s just a preview for Spider Verse so you don’t need to stick around for that. Having previews for other films don’t count and shouldn’t be left for the end unless it’s a direct sequel or something like that.

While the lobster scene wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be I definitely don’t think it was needed in the film. All the scenes of Eddie just eating random stuff just didn’t age particularly well and showing him trying to deal with being the host to Venom could have just been shown through the voice in his head. Why would Venom be trolling him like this? Also, the film briefly delves into the whole “The symbiote will destroy you from the inside” plot, but in Eddie’s case he should have believed Venom. He had already seen the regeneration in action so why wouldn’t that keep working to protect him? Worst case is that he becomes dependent on the symbiote to live, but if that’s the case then so be it. Venom seems like a trust worthy guy.

This film also keeps up Sony’s trend of having scenes from the trailer show up at the very end of the movie. It’s a pretty interesting strategy as you keep waiting for the moments to arrive and almost start to think that maybe they were cut until they finally show up at the end. An example of this is the deli scene near the end that basically everyone knows about since it was in the trailer and probably a lot of TV spots. It’s a pretty fun way to end the film I suppose. It’s one of the perks about being more of a villain who just helps out the world for his own reasons. If Batman, Spiderman, or another hero did this then it would be time to write a lot of quick editorials about how this was a terrible mistake. When Venom does it? Eh, it’s no real problem. Venom’s not the kind of guy who typically spares people. At least he didn’t destroy the cops right? When done right characters like this can have some pretty interesting story arcs. Eddie doesn’t really seem to care much about hiding his identity and pretty soon the villains are going to be terrified of him. The crime rate should drop quite a bit in his home town although he will have to make sure to be at least a little more subtle before the government starts going after him.

Venom’s also fairly tame with the violence considering that at one point it was possibly going to be R. It just goes to show that the film didn’t need it and honestly no film has ever been improved by upping the rating that far. All it does is water films down with excessive content so I’m glad that the sequel is going to stay like this one. With the cool effects we’ve already seen here we are guaranteed to have some really fun fights as it is. It also makes sense to keep the opponents to symbiotes since it will be tough for a normal opponent to hope to fight Venom. Even Spider-Man likely wouldn’t stand a chance against this version of Venom although since his spider-sense should work it could still be a good fight.

Overall, Venom was a solid film. It delivered on the action scenes and it’s also good to have a lead like Eddie who is very down to Earth and looks after the every day guy. He keeps on helping the neighborhood and won’t let fame cloud his mind. It’ll be nice to see him in the sequel as his confidence should be a lot higher and he’ll have his life under control once again. So long as the sequel stays on point and maybe fixes up the writing, it could definitely be quite the title to look out for. If you haven’t seen this film yet then you should try to fix that while you still can. Its theater run won’t last forever after all. Minor thing to watch out for as well, the film decided to drop the whole SymBYote thing so…if you’re watching for that line then keep this in mind.

Overall 6/10

The Burning Hills Review

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It’s time to look at an old Wild West film. This is the kind of adventure where the cops are long gone so it’s all up to one hero to save the day. Most modern films like this one can get a little tricky since it easily can become a very mean spirited affair. You see the villains murder a bunch of people and then the lead does the same to them. The films are meant for you to root for this kind of revenge since the villains need to get what’s coming to them, but it just ends up being a vicious cycle. That’s why these films were so much better back in the old days since the encounters didn’t even have to be violent or anything like that. It was just a classic Cops and Robbers game. As such, this film isn’t all that bad, although I still can’t say that it was very good either.

The film starts off with a guy doing some farm work. He’s been warned repeatedly that there are some bad people in the neighborhood who want him to get out. Our confident lead is confident that they won’t hurt him and to prove his point leaves his gun behind. The villains murder him and move on back to town. That’s when Trace walks in and sees what has happened. He vows revenge on the hooligans, but quickly learns that this may be too difficult a task. He is badly outnumbered and gets injured quite a lot. What can he do?

Considering that the town is basically filled with villains there really isn’t much that Trace can do. These old westerns are always a little interesting with all of the unspoken rules going around. Everybody has a gun, but nobody dares take the first shot since the quick draw may be a little too good on the opponent’s side. As a result there are a lot of staredowns and subtle threats. I’ll give Trace some props for being a fairly good shot. That being said, how did the villain not die when he was plugged twice? In a situation like that, this is exactly why you have to fire off multiple shots to make sure that they actually landed. Otherwise you have this kind of issue where the villain comes back for more. Trace was also doing well in that room so he probably could have picked off more of them 1 at a time. Eventually he would run out of bullets or they would get wise to the plan, but it would definitely thin out the ranks.

As it is, he does take an awful long time actually getting to the army base. He has to take frequent breaks and as I mentioned he does spend a great deal of the film being injured. Fortunately for him a girl named Maria is around. She tends to his wounds and decides to aid in his quest since her father was murdered by this guys a long time ago. It is quite personal for her now as you can probably imagine. She does a good job of sticking up for herself throughout the movie and even takes out a gun at one point. Unfortunately she did miss her shot, but the attempt is the important thing. Unfortunately we do get a very forced romance between her and Trace. You could probably feel that romance coming from a mile away. The romance could have been worse of course, but it just could have not been around as well and that would have been even better.

Aside from the main 2, another solid character was the head of the tracking squad. He seemed like a pretty reasonable character. While he is still a villain and lets the others do what they want for the most part, at least he doesn’t actively enjoy the murders like the others. He also doesn’t randomly try to destroy non targets as well. Naturally things don’t work out too well for him. The Indian tracker who was forced to help was also a fun character. He did his job, but at the end of the day he certainly do anything more than that and at the soonest opportunity he was ready to go back into town and mock the villains.

One custom that I’m glad was stopped was branding the horses. I don’t care f the characters believed themselves to be heroes or villains, the branding process seemed rather painful. It’s definitely not something that should have been done and while it may be hard to identify your horse otherwise, you gotta go for a different approach. The film did a good job of making sure most of the horses got away although one injured its leg which was unfortunate. Lets just keep the horses out of these films, they didn’t deserve to get mixed up in a war like this.

Overall, The film plays out this plot by the books. You can probably imagine how it’ll all go down, but it does a fair job of executing this story line. If the villains had been a little better that probably would have helped the movie out. As it stands, Maria’s family was also annoying as how they cowered whenever the villains would show up. There comes a time where you gotta stand up for yourself and these side characters could never quite get that. If you like these old westerns then you should check this film out. It’s fairly interesting.

Overall 5/10